November, the best time of the year to enjoy the colors of autumn. This year, hiking is one of the few pleasures of life that we can still enjoy despite the partial lock-down. And there is so much to see! So grab your hiking shoes and follow me. This week I headed to the geographical center of the Netherlands, to a place called Wekeromse Zand. This is one of the few places in the Netherlands where you can hike across sand drifts. In summer it’s pretty hot out there, so autumn is an excellent season for a visit to Wekerom.
Finding hiking routes in Wekerom
When looking for GPS tracks or routes, make sure that your route crosses the sand drifts themselves. The sand drifts are the highlight of any hike in this area, it would be a pity if you missed them. My suggestions:
- Download the GPS track for a 13 kilometer hike at Wandelzoekpagina: Trage Tocht Wekeromse Zand.
- Follow one of the signposted routes starting at parking place Wekeromse Zand, Hoeverweg, Wekerom. There are several options to choose from, ranging from 3 to 7 kilometers. There is a huge map to check out the area & routes at the parking place. You could also prepare yourself and check out the red route in this brochure (pdf).
What to expect of this hike?
The description underneath is the description of the 13 kilometer GPS track at Wandelzoekpagina. My advice is to bring a GPS device, as you can easily get lost on the sand drifts.
Expect a varied hike, passing through forests, across the sand drifts, along small scale agricultural areas and past a real country estate. To me the highlight of the hike is crossing the sand drifts, because of the views and because of the uniqueness of the landscape.
Starting at the parking place it is only a short stroll through the forest before you reach the sands. Hiking through the sands can be tiring, especially in summer, so bring some water just in case. However, in autumn this hike is so much easier!
Having crossed the sand drifts, there is a nice and easy forest path waiting for you. This does eventually lead you back to the sands again for your second crossing of the sand drifts.
From then on, no more sands. That doesn’t mean the hike gets boring though. There is a lot to see, coniferous and deciduous forests, open fields, even a (very) small stretch of moor and a tiny lake. I’ve heard there’s a herd of mouflon (wild sheep) grazing in the area. Perhaps you will be luckier than me and spot them? I spotted some very Dutch looking cows underneath a tree though.
The GPS track almost follows the shape of an 8, which means that you could cross back to the parking place if you’ve seen enough halfway. If you would like to hike on, cross the road and hike towards the Valouwe Estate. The estate is open to hikers (free of charge). It’s an area kind of in between a forest and a garden, with loads of rhododendron (sorry, not in their best shape in autumn).
Sand drifts: a short history
The Wekeromse Zand is situated in an area called Veluwe, in the northern part of Gelderland province. This area is known for its infertile soils, which explains why it is sparsely populated and (therefore) offers so many hiking opportunities.
Back in the Middle Ages these sandy soils were covered with moors. The moors started to disappear from the 16th century onwards, and with them the thin layer of fertile top soil. That happened because of overgrazing by sheep. And because people cut out pieces of soil and used them to fertilize their fields (sod-cutting). The moors didn’t get enough time to recover and what was left was a desert. A moving desert that is. The wind moved the sand around, covering fields that were still used as farmland, thus increasing the problem of infertile grounds.
By the end of the 19th century one third of the Veluwe consisted of sands. But the tide turned. Sheep disappeared and artificial fertilizers helped farmers to grow crops again. The government planted forests to stop the sands from drifting. Now only 1% of the Veluwe area consists of sand. These lasts remains of what was once a Dutch desert are now fiercely protected by environmental organizations. They don’t move around any more, as they are contained by forests, but they still give you a glimpse of what once was.
Wekeromse Zand: how to get there?
The easiest way to get to Wekeromse Zand is by car. Use parking place Parkeerplaats Wekeromse Zand, Hoeverweg, Wekerom as a reference address. This is the starting point for signposted hikes as well as for the hike I describe in this blog.
Do you travel by public transport? Grab a train to train station Ede-Wageningen. There are direct intercity trains to Ede-Wageningen from Amsterdam Zuid (55 minutes) and from Utrecht (25 minutes), as well as from Arnhem (10 minutes). At Ede-Wageningen station catch a bus to Wekerom. Use bus stop La Vendula, Wekerom as a reference when looking for your travel schedule. The 13 kilometer hike I described crosses the road just south of the bus stop. So you can easily start your hike form there instead of at the parking place.
Check your schedule on the public transport website 9292.nl and read my tips about using public transport in Holland. Mind that there are extra rules for users of public transport during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example: you have to wear a face mask when using public transport.